St. Catherine University, in conjunction with St. Thomas, opened its production of “Hello, Dolly!” Friday.
The musical features students from St. Thomas, St. Catherine University, Macalester College, Academy of Holy Angels High School and surrounding communities.
“Fifty percent of the cast is St. Thomas students,” Teresa Lyons-Hegdahl, St. Kate’s director and theater professor, said. “The level of talent and commitment is high in the schools, but we reached out to Holy Angels to gain more men for the choral parts.”
Orchestra conductor Rob Strusinski, former liturgical choir director at St. Thomas, said they recruited high school students because they couldn’t get enough men from St. Thomas.
“It reveals a shortcoming at St. Thomas and one of the challenges at St. Catherine,” Strusinski said. “Ending the theater program at St. Thomas has diminished the mission of the university by eliminating a program by which students could develop not only intellectually, but artistically.”
Lyons-Hegdahl said St. Thomas and St. Kate’s had a joint department for 35 years, and St. Thomas ended the partnership in spring 2009.
Despite St. Thomas’ decision to eliminate the theater major and Foley Theater, student theater involvement at St. Kate’s remained constant, Lyons-Hegdahl said.
“Even though students at St. Thomas can no longer get a theater major, we’re not seeing a decline in the interest and participation in theater, which is great,” Lyons-Hegdahl said.
St. Thomas sophomore Katie Anderson, a chorus member in the musical, said her favorite part about working at St. Kate’s was meeting new faces, even if they had to travel to rehearse.
“It’s kind of cool to meet new people. It’s fun to be involved with St. Thomas people as well as St. Kate’s since we don’t have a program here,” Anderson said. “Having to carpool every time is not that bad, but is still a hassle.”
Freshman Ryan Nolan said he disliked the commute to St. Kate’s.
“I don’t have a car so I have to ask people for rides,” Nolan said. “If someone isn’t in the scene that night, I’m scrambling to find someone else to get a ride from, or else I have to jog through the snow.”
Junior Perry Chicos, who played Barnaby, one of the leads, said the commute wasn’t a problem for him.
“We have to give rides, a lot of carpools,” Chicos said. “We make it work, it’s just inconvenient.”
Senior Franklin Wagner, who played supporting role Ambrose Kemper, said despite the commute, he liked working at St. Kate’s with a diverse cast of students.
“Working with different people, they make you raise your game as an actor,” Wagner said. “So you keep learning and you make a better show that way.”
“Hello, Dolly!” is Wagner’s eighth and final performance. He is one of the last St. Thomas students to graduate with the theater major.
“Even though it’s gone, the education I’ve gotten has helped me grow as a person, not just as an artist,” Wagner said. “I owe a lot of that to the theater degree I got from St. Thomas. I owe that to the professors in the theater department that is sadly no longer there.”
Strusinski said St. Thomas co-sponsored the musical and helped fund the production, and he hopes to see the two schools continue to work together.
“I hope that there would continue to be some connection between St. Thomas faculty and St. Kate’s productions in the futures,” Strusinski said. “So that there is some ownership, not just contributing some budget to produce a show.”
Lyons-Hegdahl said she also hopes the partnership would continue.
“We love having St. Thomas students engage in our program and treasure the wealth of talent and investment they bring to our shows,” Lyons-Hegdahl said. “We’re excited for this production. It’s going to be phenomenal.”
Hannah Anderson can be reached at email@example.com.